Why Do Most Countries Including the US Drive on the Right?

Updated on September 25, 2017
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Livingsta is a writer who writes about anything that fascinates, provokes or interests her, always putting forth her best effort and focus.

Picture above shows right hand driving !
Picture above shows right hand driving !

A thorough research on the internet says that almost two-thirds to three-quarters of the world drive on the right, while only one third to a quarter of the world drive on the left. Also it is mostly the British colonies that drive on the left. This can be quite surprising, but they have valid reasons as to why they drive on the left.

I got these statistics off the internet!

  • 66.1% of the world’s people live in right-hand traffic countries
  • 33.9% of the world’s people live in left-hand traffic countries
  • 72% of the world’s road distance carries traffic on the right
  • 28% of the world’s road distance carries traffic on the left

Red colour depicts the countries with right-hand traffic and Blue colour shows the countries with left-hand traffic
Red colour depicts the countries with right-hand traffic and Blue colour shows the countries with left-hand traffic

Why Do We Drive On The Right in the U.S?

During early days, almost everybody travelled on the left side of the road. People found it easier and correct because of the way the societies were then, wars, violence. A vast majority of the people are and were right handed. Swordsmen always preferred to keep to the left so that they could use their right arm to defend themselves from the opponent and they can wear the sheath for a sword or dagger or bayonet also called the scabbard, on their left arm, so that it does not hit other people they pass by. It was also easier for them to mount the horses from the left rather than from the right, that way they had to ride the horses on the left hand side of the road.

Later on the in the late 1700s, France and US started using wagons to transport farm products. The wagons were driven by several horses. In order to keep control of the team, the driver sat on the horse which was to the left rear side of the group, so he could use his right arm to handle the group. In order for him to keep an eye on the road and maintain the position on the road for oncoming vehicles, the wagons had to be driven on the right hand side of the road. Also according to history, the French revolution that took place in 1789 had a huge impact on right hand driving in Europe (aristocrats driving on the left wanted to be in level with the pheasants who were driving on the right) and in 1794, right hand driving was made a rule in Paris and a year before that in 1793 in Denmark too.

Britain however did not follow right hand driving, and in 1835 left hand driving was made mandatory in Britain. Also countries that were part of the British empire follow left hand driving, which includes India, Australasia and the former British colonies in Africa (Egypt is an exception).

Japan, which was not part of the British Empire also drives on the left, for reasons dating back to the Edo period in history.

Years before when the English had colonised North America, the colonies drove on left following the English customs. After independence from the British, they moved to right hand driving. Right hand driving law was passed for the drivers first in Pennsylvania in 1792 and then later in New York in 1804 and New Jersey in 1813. Canada started right driving only after the Second World War. The power of driving right grew up as most European countries started driving on the right. American cars were designed to be driven on the right. Many countries imported American cars due to their reliability and being economic. As a result of this, those countries that imported American cars had to maintain right hand driving because of the design.

Why the British Drive on the Left?

Great Britain also considered changing to right hand driving in the 1960s, but taking into account the expenses to change everything which would cost billions of pounds, the then Government used its power to stop Britain from going to right hand driving. Today only four European countries drive left, while the rest drive right.

Questions & Answers

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      • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR

        livingsta 

        5 years ago from United Kingdom

        Hi Paul,

        Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts / experiences. I do understand how you feel when you are so used to a particular type of driving.

        Thank you for the votes and all the shares. Hope you had a good day :-)

      • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR

        livingsta 

        5 years ago from United Kingdom

        Hi Kathryn, thank you for reading. I am glad that you found this interesting. Hope you are well. Have a good day :-)

      • Kathryn Stratford profile image

        Kathryn 

        5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

        I have always wondered about the reasons behind that, so this is a very interesting read! Thanks for looking into this for us, and sharing what you learned. Next, I will check out the British "driving on the left" hub.

        Have a wonderful day!

        ~ Kathryn

      • Paul Kuehn profile image

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

        livingsta,

        I found this hub extremely interesting as to the historical reasons why people started driving on the right or left. In Thailand people drive on the left. It initially was a little challenge for me when I brought my car from the States over to Thailand to drive. Without a passenger, it was extremely inconvenient paying tolls and passing on two lane roads. Voted up and sharing with followers and on Facebook. Also Pinning and Tweeting.

      • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR

        livingsta 

        5 years ago from United Kingdom

        Hi BkCreative, I can understand what you say. I hope you will get used to this as you travel to England often. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts and experience. I am pleased that this information was interesting for you. Have a good day!

      • BkCreative profile image

        BkCreative 

        5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

        As one who travels from the US to England quite often - it was a bit nerve wracking while in London because you really had to keep looking both ways so you wouldn't get mowed down. Then you are also supposed to walk on the left in London whereas here in NYC it is always "keep right!" And you're so right, many other places follow the right so it was easy for me to travel everywhere without a thought to traffic flow - but once in London - good grief! Then riding in a car with my cousin - I felt so disoriented. Yikes!

        Thanks for an interesting hub.

      • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR

        livingsta 

        5 years ago from United Kingdom

        Thank you DommaLeigh. I am glad it was useful :-)

        Have a good weekend!

      • DommaLeigh profile image

        DommaLeigh 

        5 years ago

        I liked your hub. I never really gave much thought to why we drive on which side of the road.

      • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR

        livingsta 

        5 years ago from United Kingdom

        Hi Vellur, I am glad it was useful! Thank you for reading and the appreciation!

      • Vellur profile image

        Nithya Venkat 

        5 years ago from Dubai

        Interesting information, now I know. Thanks for sharing.

      • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR

        livingsta 

        6 years ago from United Kingdom

        Thank you @Rajan Jolly!

      • rajan jolly profile image

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        6 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

        Very interesting information. Voted up.

      • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR

        livingsta 

        6 years ago from United Kingdom

        Thank you eHealer for your appreciation!

      • eHealer profile image

        Deborah 

        6 years ago from Las Vegas

        Great job! I always wondered who was the road god and sanctioned right or left. Thank you very much for answering my question! Voted Up.

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